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Google Skunkworks’ Autonomous Vehicles For Greener Highways

Autonomous Vehicles Could Eliminate Traffic Jams, Saving Billions of Gallons of Gasoline
Autonomous Vehicles Could Eliminate Traffic Jams, Saving Billions of Gallons of Gasoline

Could autonomous vehicles be everything we need for future transportation? Safety seems like a given, but what about environmental impact?

First, safety seems to be the biggest reason for adopting autonomous vehicles. Hudreds of thousands of people die every year in automobile accidents, very few of which can be attributed to equipment failure. Most of the time, accidents occur due to overconfidence, inexperience, incompetence, from something as simple as fatigue to something as heinous as inebriation. Clearly, people are the problem.

Sebastian Thrun, a Google Skunkworks developer, explains what they’ve been able to accomplish, and why, in this video…

Autonomous vehicles, such as those being tested by Google and Nissan, could solve the people problem, once and for all, reducing the number and severity of automobile accidents. At the same time, Thrun suggests that autonomous vehicles could actually be green. Every year, it is estimated that around two billions gallons of fuel is wasted in traffic jams, due to the simple fact that most people simply do not know how to stay in their lane or merge properly. The result is that we slow down, speed up, or swerve when we shouldn’t, and the resulting backup can be seen for hours and miles behind you.

Having lived in New Jersey for a few years, it always boggled me how the highway, before certain entrance ramps, would back up for miles, and there wasn’t even an accident. Autonomous vehicles react rationally, so meaningless traffic jams could be eliminated. Saving billions of gallons of fuel and eliminating, or at least reducing, accidents could be just two things autonomous vehicles might accomplish. Thrun thinks this might take a few decades, however, but autonomous vehicles are already logging thousands of miles navigating traffic and roads in all conditions. How soon might we see autonomous vehicles in a more permanent role?

Image © Wired

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